Ah Japanese RPGs, a staple of my gaming life. In Japan, the market is full of games of this type (obviously that’s why they are called JRPG), but there have always been two great series among the countless titles of the genre: Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. There has also always been a series that follows right behind those two, and that would be the Tales series. Starting on the Super Famicom with Tales of Phantasia in 1995, the series spawned 14 games in the main series and 9 offshoots. With the latest North American release, Tales of Xillia 2, I wanted to try the original Tales of Xillia title for PS3. After playing this game extensively and logging in for almost 50 hours, I feel primed and ready for the next one.
The game begins with the option to play as Jude Mathis, a soft-spoken good medical student, or as the mysterious Milla Maxwell. This will affect certain scenes and even some playable events throughout the game. Regardless of who you choose, you’ll end up meeting a set of characters, 6 playable in total. These characters develop and grow throughout the game. I even found myself going back to previous towns just to check out characters who had a previous role in the story, and was rewarded with reunion scenes, something I hadn’t seen before. It really makes you feel like the characters are alive after the main story has left them behind.
Story has always been a strong point for the Tales series, and it carries over to Xillia. The main questline is a roller coaster of ups and downs, surprises, and twists. The game had me on the edge of my seat trying to mentally prepare myself for what was coming next. The story progresses at a fast pace, but not to the point where you find yourself asking “Wait, what am I supposed to do now?”, and even if you get distracted, the game has an “Event List” in which you can get a brief summary about the history and everything that has happened so far. The story is really gripping and consistently interesting.
One thing that makes the Tales series different from the other two franchises I mentioned above is the combat. It might look like the same thing you’ve seen in a typical Final Fantasy game, but it won’t take long for you to realize just how fantastic the battle system is. When you engage an enemy, the screen changes to what Tales calls a battle map, four party members are there to engage in combat, but here’s the kicker, the combat plays out like an action game with RPG elements. such as skills and items. mixed Combat is smooth and exciting, and battles only last between 10 seconds and a minute, so you won’t tire of fighting field monsters or clearing levels like you would in a traditional turn-based RPG.
Most people would prefer the good to the bad, so I’ll start with the good: the sound. The sound in this game is absolutely top notch. From the voice acting to the sounds of Jude’s fists smashing enemies to the soundtrack; the sound of this game is captivating and I loved every second of it. I can’t say enough good things about the voice cast in this game as each character speaks with the appropriate emotions, be it happy, silly, sad or angry they all work perfectly. My favorite voice in the cast would have to be the old man Rowen, as he really does sound like the gentleman he plays on screen.
Unfortunately, I cannot give the same praise to the graphics. While I understand that this game was released two years ago in Japan, I feel like they could have polished some of the textures in the game and cleaned it up a bit. Sometimes the mouths didn’t match the words, and other times the animation felt a little behind the times. One thing I can say is that the game features excellent anime scenes in the thick of the story. Just when things get more intense, Xillia brings the cutscenes with some powerful and beautiful animated cutscenes. Although the graphics of the game are not the best, I can say that some of the areas in this game are impressive. I found myself taking a step back just to stare in awe at the landscapes quite often. Overall, the graphics aren’t horrible, but they aren’t great either.
The game features plenty of things to do after you’ve beaten it, from hidden side bosses, side quests, to Alfried’s treasures to collect. Even after completing the story, I managed to put an extra 15 hours into the game. A notable extra is the additional dungeon, Magnus Zero. Not only are they a whopping twenty floors, but after you beat the boss at the end, you get a chance to go through it again on a harder difficulty.
Tales of Xillia is a solid buy for any RPG fan, and even if you only have a passing interest in the genre, this game is worth at least one look. The game gives you what you pay for: a 45+ hour story with tons of optional gameplay on top of that. Overall, this game is a welcome addition to the wonderful Tales series, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Look for it in your local Slackers today!